Rationale and Motivation
Why should we cultivate International Church-planting Partnerships (ICPs)? This post is by no means exhaustive, but should be enough to be persuasive. For those who are persuaded, another post will appear shortly to stimulate reflection on how to cultivate such partnerships.
1. The early church was, from the start, a diverse global family of church-planting churches
The early church was, from the start, a diverse global family of church-planting churches
Matthew 28.18-20 necessitates ICPs. How is the gospel to go to the ends of the earth without crossing national boundaries (or their equivalent)? How are disciples to be baptised, instructed and made outside the context of the church, described in New Testament categories? In the light of the great commission, it is no surprise to see that Acts is a story of ICPs, from the day that the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas. Luke gives us a beautiful picture of the principle in Acts 20:4, with Paul returning to Jerusalem with a team of colleagues from recent church-plants in Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe and Asia (maybe from the plants that started around Paul’s work in Ephesus, including Colossians). In a casual way, Luke describes ICPs as part of the normal fabric of the early church. The same picture emerges from the letters. Why did Paul write Romans? To get to Spain, and to create an ICP between the church in Rome and the church he hoped to plant in Spain. Philippians is a letter all about gospel partnership (ch 1 and ch 4). 1 Thessalonians 1 shows a church whose influence and testimony crossed from province to province naturally and infectiously. It would seem that when the scope and scale of the gospel were preached, they produced as a necessary consequence vital and intentional ICPs.
2. Grace flows downhill
We, and our churches, receive grace when we humble ourselves and empty ourselves.
God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud. He fills the hungry with good things, the rich he sends empty away. We, and our churches, receive grace when we humble ourselves and empty ourselves. The grace we receive flows downhill to others whose need is greater than ours, specifically in ICPs. In this way, we remain in a posture of humility and emptiness, which, in our experience, leads to God’s continuing grace flowing into our lives. Grace keeps flowing to us, and out of us. Grace flows downhill.
3. ICPs accelerate and amplify the missional impact of local churches
An illustration might help here. Imagine you are digging a hole. You are laboring away with a shovel, and the hole is advancing slowly, but there are many roots and rocks that are impervious to your shovel. Some friends come along with more shovels and some picks. Your work is the same work – but the partnership means that it goes much quicker and the extra tools means it goes much deeper. ICPs accelerate and amplify the impact of the local church. The wonder of ICPs is that the benefits are felt on both sides of the partnership, notably because…
4. ICPs give local churches opportunities to express the diverse, global reality of the universal church
International church-planting partnerships accelerate & amplify the impact of the local church.
The friends go back home with their shovels and picks, tired and happy. Their families ask them how they got on. They tell the story of how they helped a friend dig a hole, how they developed a rich relationship in the process, how they felt the truth of how it is more blessed to give than to receive. The whole church, through ICPs, basks in the reality of the global expression of God’s church and the part God allowed them to play in the extension of his kingdom far away. The ICP becomes a jewel in their crown, the unfathomable smile in their joy (1 Thessalonians 2.19).
5. ICPs provide opportunities for intense discipleship through the sending of short-term teams
A team of church-members who cross a national border to help another local church in their mission undergoes an intense period of discipleship. Prayer, evangelism, unity, love, service, bearing with one another are all intensified. It is an ideal time to deliver some core curriculum on missional theology in context. Properly designed and executed, it can be of great value for the receiving church, and of even greater benefit for the sending church. The best predictor of full-time vocational Christian service is participation in such a team. If we want to accelerate and amplify the stream of church-planters and church-planting team members in our local contexts, teams like these are particularly effective.
Intense discipleship occurs when teams of church members cross national borders to support another church’s mission.
6. ICPs are an effective way of reaching unreached people groups
This animated graphic shows the flux of refugees into Europe, notably from places that are difficult for the church to access and where high proportions of unreached people live. If churches in the States, for example, wish to reach people in these areas, then it would seem providential to invest in churches whose reach now includes, by God’s grace, people from these areas. There is a church in Paris reaching Iranians in precisely this way.
Philip Moore is married to Rachel and they have 5 children. In 2006 Phillip moved to France to pastor a church in the Paris area. Since then, by God’s grace, the church has planted 3 daughter churches and trained and sent a couple to plant a church in the centre of Paris. He is now the Acts 29 Europe Network Director.
This is part one of a series. Click the button below to read the second post.